So far in the trip, we’ve been spending all of our time in Jerusalem spending time in the old city, and soaking in everything it has to offer. Today was our first day venturing out of the city, and we were so excited. Our first big stop was Herod’s palace. Herod was the ruler during Jesus’ lifetime, so studying his life, and the ruins of the palace he created tells us a lot about the way that he ruled and how that affected Jesus. Herod’s desire to kill Jesus makes sense based on what we know about his character.
As we’re driving down the road, Brian points out a large hill that was the home of Herod’s palace. Herod gained control of this hill, enlarged it, and put his palace on it. On this hill is his palace, tomb, and a cistern that runs through the hill. We spent time exploring the ruins of his palace, walking underground through the cistern, and viewing the remains of Herod’s tomb. His tomb was just discovered in 2007. Something that really surprised me about Israel is that they’re still excavating and discovering things. This country that is so rich and full of information hasn’t fully been taken advantage of by the people who live here.
After visiting Herod’s palace, we went to Bethlehem to visit the Church of the Nativity. I wasn’t sure what to expect when going to Bethlehem, but it was definitely not what I saw. Jesus was born in a grotto, or a cave. The Church of the Nativity is said to be built on top of the exact grotto Jesus was born in.
The entrance of the church was a very low door that forced you to bend over to enter. This was such a cool and humbling experience.
The inside of the church was not what I was expecting. There were hundreds of ornate candles hanging from the ceiling, and the walls were covered with pictures and tapestries. In the back of the church, there was a small set of stairs that descended into the grotto Jesus was said to be born in. There was a large almost fireplace looking cutout in the wall filled with ornate decorations that is supposed to be the exact spot that our Savior entered the world. Across the room was a small cutout in the wall that is said to be the manger that Jesus was laid in when he was born. While we’re not sure that this is the exact grotto Jesus was born in, it very well could have been.
After leaving Bethlehem, we traveled to the Mount of Olives. Aside from being such an awesome and meaningful place, the Mount of Olives was an incredible lookout. We could see all of Jerusalem and get a bigger picture perspective of everything that we had seen already on our trip.
We walked downhill a bit to reach the Garden of Gethsemane. The garden was incredibly beautiful, and had a church (The Church of All Nations) built right next to it.
Sitting in the garden thinking about Jesus’ time spent there was so meaningful. Meditating in the Church and the Garden of Gethsemane was an awesome experience for me. Feeling God’s presence, and reflecting on how God’s moving in my life was amazing. I was reminded that God meets us wherever we’re at and uses us despite our unfaithfulness and imperfections.